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March 13, 2007

ESPN Fantasy Column

Injury Notes

Eric Gagne pitched his first live action of the spring and threw his full assortment of pitches with solid results. He can’t and won’t dial it up like he did in 2003, but he has become a worthwhile fantasy risk. Right now he’s averaged 18th among closers taken in ESPN’s mixed leagues and 10th in AL-only leagues, both of which feel right at this time. He has room to move up, though I can’t see him ranking among the top half of closers prior to the season because of his injury history. Akinori Otsuka is a fine caddy and darn near a must-own for Gagne owners in large mixed leagues and single leagues.

Mark Teixeira missed Monday’s game with a sore knee and won’t play again until at least Friday. That’s all I know. Texas is probably just being careful, but owners drafting this week should move him down a few slots.

Outfielder Nelson Cruz was tested for a concussion and fractures after Yovani Gallardo plunked him on the noggin. Results were negative, and he should be back soon.

Pitcher Projections

2006: 16-12, 4.52 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 157 SO, 215 IP
2007: 14-11, 4.22 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 158 SO, 210 IP

Millwood pitched very close to my expectations in 2006, but I also predicted greatness from Brad Wilkerson, so there I go. Millwood’s a pretty ordinary fantasy pitcher, useful only in AL-only leagues and large mixed leagues. His 2006 was highly indicative of what to expect this season. Yes, I project a lower ERA despite a higher WHIP. Millwood was terrible last year with runners in scoring position and seemed to allow his baserunners in huge clumps; a more even distribution should help his ERA.

2006: 15-10, 4.50 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 156 SO, 200 IP
2007: 12-11, 4.58 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 155 SO, 200 IP

My normally trusty computer predicts a very slight decline for Padilla, but that may be a hangover from his injury-riddled 2004 and 2005. Padilla offers a performance remarkably similar to Millwood overall, though he also will melt down on occasion and disgorge some pitching lines that will kill owners in head-to-head leagues. Another pitcher who doesn’t quite merit a look in typical mixed leagues, but if you’re in need of strikeouts, he and Millwood will provide.

Outfielder Projections

Keep in mind that the Ranger outfield situation can change on a daily basis. I don’t believe that any outfielder is worth owning in mixed leagues with twelve or fewer teams.

2006: 522 PA, .301/.360/.403, 79 R, 3 HR, 41 RBI, 32 SB
2007: 500 PA, .280/.335/.375, 75 R, 3 HR, 40 RBI, 22 SB

Among players age 40 or higher, only Rickey Henderson and Davey Lopes have achieved 30 stolen bases. Kenny Lofton won’t join them, and his other stats should decline also. I think there’s a little upside in the batting line listed above, but he is going to be 40 in May, and what would be really strange is if he didn’t decline some. Don’t factor in a park bounce; Lofton doesn’t hit for power, and Dodger Stadium was actually favorable to hitters last year. Since he won’t start against lefties, Lofton won’t amass enough runs to counteract his lack of power and RBI. He’s suitable strictly for AL-only leagues and very large mixed leagues.


2006: 499 PA, .300/.376/.439, 56 R, 7 HR, 56 RBI, 1 SB
2007: 500 PA, .290/.360/.418, 60 R, 6 HR, 55 RBI, 1 SB

Skydome has favored hitters just as much as The Ballpark during the past three years, so Little Cat doesn’t gain anything by coming to Arlington. Plus, he’s already spent three years in Texas and has career highs of only 77 runs, 15 homers and 59 RBI. Yawn. He’s not the same player as Lofton but is generally as useful in fantasy leagues. He’ll sit against lefties. Catalanotto stopped running four years ago.

2006: 365 PA, .222/.306/.422, 56 R, 15 HR, 44 RBI, 3 SB
2007: 550 PA, .253/.353/.465, 70 R, 22 HR, 74 RBI, 3 SB

Of the Rangers’ 24 outfield options, I believe Wilkerson has the best chance to help a mixed-league team. I’m not suggesting you draft him, not in small and average-sized leagues, anyway. However, he lacks the platoon issues that hinder other Rangers and stands to get the most playing time. If he returns to full-time status, he could become a worthwhile free agent in many mixed leagues. 25 homers are possible.

2005: 424 PA, .221/.295/.376, 39 R, 14 HR, 45 RBI, 1 SB
2006: Did not play, not even for the Long Island Ducks
2007: 250 PA, .235/.310/.430, 28 R, 11 HR, 32 RBI, 0 SB

Swingin’ Sammy has ripped the cover off the ball in Arizona, and Ranger management and players have professed their Sosa love. Neat. On a totally unrelated topic, Kevin Mench batted .417 and slugged .929 in Spring Training last year and by July had played himself out of a regular job and off the Ranger roster.

I’m not saying Sosa will fail, but I am saying his spring numbers are indicative of jack squat. His last fantasy-worthy season was 2004, and even then he didn’t offer much beyond his 35 homers. Attribute his awful 2005 to injuries and emotional upheaval if you like, but that won’t make him any younger or make up for an entire year out of baseball. Worth a flyer in AL-only leagues; otherwise, pass. I hope I’m wrong.

2006: 138 PA, .223/.261/.385, 15 R, 6 HR, 22 RBI, 1 SB
2007: 400 PA, .250/.310/.425, 52 R, 16 HR, 60 RBI, 8 SB

Cruz is no easier to predict than Sosa. After hitting .300 with 20 homers and 17 steals in AAA, Cruz struggled mightily in the big leagues. Already 26, he doesn’t have that much upside. He also might begin the season starting only against lefties, with more at-bats to come based on performance and injuries to others. An intriguing late-middle pick in single leagues.

Posted by Lucas at March 13, 2007 05:57 PM